Rhode Island College Advances to Little East Title Game

Ken Bell


Rhode Island College news release…

RIC Reaches LEC Tournament Final for Seventh Straight Season

Providence, R.I.-Senior guard Tahrike Carter (Brooklyn, NY) poured in 12 points, gathered eight rebounds and dished out four assists to lead top-seeded Rhode Island College to a 61-47 victory over fourth-seeded Southern Maine in the semifinals of the 2013 Little East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament, played at The Murray Center on Friday night.

Rhode Island College (24-3) advances to its seventh consecutive Little East Conference Tournament Championship game, which will be held at The Murray Center on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 5 p.m. The Anchormen are the first team in league history to compete in seven straight LEC title contests. RIC will face the winner of third-seeded Keene State vs. second-seeded Eastern Connecticut (8 p.m.).

After the two teams exchanged baskets in the opening minutes of the first half, the Anchormen exploded for a 13-1 run sparked by a fast break dunk from Carter with 16:12 on the clock. Meanwhile, RIC's stifling defense held the Huskies without a field goal for nearly eight minutes, until Southern Maine halted the scoring draught at the 9:34 mark thanks to a bucket from junior forward James Odneal (Pontiac, MI) that made it, 15-5.

Rhode Island College continued to storm ahead of the Huskies and soon took a 21-5 lead following four straight free throws from junior guard Nyheem Sanders (Pawtucket, RI). After the basket from Odneal, Southern Maine was once again held off the scoreboard for over five minutes, until a trey from senior guard Alex Kee (Bath, ME) at the 4:00 mark cut the Huskies deficit to 13 and made it, 21-8.

Thanks to Kee's three, USM finally found some rhythm offensively to close out the frame, spearheaded by a pair of layups from senior guard Mike Poulin (Readfield, ME). However, the Anchormen still outscored the Huskies, 8-7, over the final four minutes to take a 29-15 lead heading into the break.

After the two teams traded buckets to open up the second half, Rhode Island College quickly took a 36-20 lead over USM following five straight points from junior guard Tom DeCiantis (North Kingstown, RI) in the first two minutes of the stanza. However, the Huskies answered back with a 12-4 run of their own to trim the margin to eight, capped off by a fast break layup from junior guard Conor Sullivan (Scarborough, ME) with 12:22 on the clock.

Despite the best efforts of the visitors to chip away at the deficit and take the home crowd out of the game, the entire Murray Center erupted after Sanders tossed a fast break alley-oop to sophomore forward Chris Burton (New Rochelle, NY), who threw down a ferocious two-handed slam that gave the hosts an 11-point lead with 10:41 to play.

After trailing by more than 10 for the majority of the game, the Huskies finally cut the deficit to single-digits after freshman guard Cole Libby (Buxton, ME) buried a pair of free throws with 8:59 on the clock to make it, 45-36. Rhode Island College responded to surge ahead by as many as 14 after a three-pointer by Carter with 5:24 on the clock, but Southern Maine managed to rally for a 7-0 unanswered run to trim the margin to just seven, keyed by a pair of buckets from senior forward Sean Bergeron (Kennebunk, ME) in the paint.

Leading, 52-45, with less than three minutes to play, the Anchormen shut down USM's late rally and pulled away from the Huskies thanks to a pair of clutch layups from DeCiantis and Sanders in the final two minutes of action to come away with the 12-point victory.

Carter was one of three Anchormen to finish in double-figures offensively, as Burton also added 11 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals, while Sanders registered 11 points, three boards, three assists and a game-high four steals. DeCiantis finished with nine points and four rebounds, while sophomore guard Alex Cruz (East Hartford, CT) chipped in with seven points and four boards.

Bergeron led the Huskies with a game-high 13 points to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks, while Odneal totaled seven points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Poulin recorded eight points for USM, while Kee and Sullivan, two of the top scorers in the Little East, were held to just seven points each in the loss.

The Anchormen shot 38 percent (20-for-53) from the floor, 10 percent (2-for-20) from downtown and 63 percent (19-for-30) from the free throw line.

Meanwhile, after being held to just 18 percent (6-for-34) shooting from the field in the first half, the Huskies shot 31 percent (18-for-59) from the floor for the game, 12 percent (2-for-17) from beyond the arc and 45 percent (9-for-20) from the charity stripe.

Rhode Island College outrebounded Southern Maine, 44-41, and forced the Huskies into 17 turnovers, compared to just 14 miscues for RIC.